The mural, which showed up on a wall this week in Portland, Maine, depicted the state’s governor, Paul LePage.
In the painting, the Republican governor with a penchant for making controversial comments had his mouth agape.
He was also, notably, dressed like a member of the Ku Klux Klan, in a white hood and a robe emblazoned with a red Klan insignia.
Next to his visage were the words:
The series ended with one more word: “Governor,” crossed through with a red line.
The display “appeared some time in the past week,” according to the Portland Press Herald.
On Tuesday, the city’s Democratic mayor said it should be removed.
“I do not want it up there; it is not reflective of our values,” Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling told the newspaper. “The KKK has a long, problematic history in the state of Maine and equating the governor and his rhetoric, as much as we disagree with it, is a step too far.”
It was unclear whether the city would remove the mural from the wall near a wastewater treatment plant.
Portland Water District spokeswoman Michelle Clements told The Washington Post in an email Tuesday evening that the agency was “talking with the City of Portland to see what can be done” but that the city and the water district agreed years ago to allow graffiti art on the site.
City spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said in a phone interview that Portland’s city manager was checking in with council members and that the issue was “still evolving.”
“We are seeing what the council would like and also exploring what our options are because, obviously, there could be legal ramifications if we were to take it down,” Grondin said.
Grondin had previously told the Bangor Daily News that the graffiti was a free-speech matter. “We can’t do anything because it’s sanctioned and it’s a matter of free speech,” she said. “If it was hate speech, it would be illegal. But it’s not.”
Grondin told The Post that she did not mean the city condoned the art, but she said law enforcement in the city does not police free-speech issues.
“And we have never had to take a piece of content down before,” Grondin said. “So, kind of new territory at this point.”
As officials tried to figure out what, if anything, they should do about the mural, the people of Maine took matters into their own hands.
NBC affiliate WCSH-TV reported Tuesday night that two people used white paint to cover the mural.
One of them was Mark Reilly, a LePage supporter who said the governor has made mistakes but portraying him as a Ku Klux Klan member goes too far.
“I think that things that he has said in the past are very concerning,” Reilly said. “However, if you look past what he says and look at what he does for the state, I think the state’s been in better shape since he’s been in office.”
But soon after, WCSH reported, “a group of people who wanted to see the mural and supported its message washed the wall off,” leaving the LePage painting “mostly exposed.”
“We took a stand, and we said, ‘No, this is our city. … This represents us,'” Erica Hall, who helped strip the white paint off the mural, told WCSH. The painting, Hall said, “doesn’t have to stay, but it does have to get the message out.”
It was not long before the mural was modified yet again, the Press Herald reported:
As of 10 p.m., the Ku Klux Klan imagery was gone and the governor’s likeness was adorned by Mickey Mouse ears and framed by the words “No Hate” and “Hate is Hate.”
A graffiti mural of LePage originally had him dressed as a KKK leader, but this morning he has Mickey ears. pic.twitter.com/ymb3QMJfPS
— Kelsey Fabian (@KelseyFabian) September 7, 2016
LePage has come under fire for his controversial and racially charged comments, which include:
• Blaming Maine’s drug problem on “guys of the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” from other areas who travel to Maine, sell drugs and leave. After that, he added: “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave. Which is the real sad thing, because then we have another issue that we have to deal with down the road.” (He later said he misspoke and had meant to say “Maine women.”)
"My brain didn't catch up to my mouth" Maine Gov. LePage says. "Instead of saying Maine women, I said white women."
— Simone Pathe (@sfpathe) January 8, 2016
• During a remark about how he had been “collecting every single drug dealer” arrested in the state, stating: “I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come. And I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ring binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn. I didn’t make the rules, I’m just telling you what’s happening.”
• An expletive-laden voice-mail that he left for a state lawmaker, in which LePage appeared to threaten the man. “When a snot-nosed little guy from Westbrook calls me a racist, now I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825,” LePage later told reporters, according to the Press Herald. “And we would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be [Alexander] Hamilton.” (His office later released a statement apologizing “to the people of Maine” but making “no apology for trying to end the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state.”)
LePage’s office did not return emails seeking comment late Tuesday.